A very nice piece by Lydia Davis in the Dec. 8 NYRB on “Eleven Pleasures of Translating.” I wish I had the time to write an extended essay on it, because she broaches important topics in a way that invites commentary, if not conversation. Two quick observations (before I return to the pleasures of translating (and other stuff)):
First, the long intro demonstrates the difference between many (mostly older) translators of the tactile dictionary-centric school and those who tend to start with online sources. “Later, I discovered that the equivalent [for the French “macher“] in the wine-tasting world is indeed ‘chew’—but would it have ever occurred to me to look to a wine buyers’ guide for help with my Flaubert translation?” Well, perhaps not, but one could have done a Google search on the spot to verify this. There’s even at least one YouTube movie that demonstrates how to chew one’s wine.
More interesting is this: “I have had two literary occupations, and preoccupations, all my adult life, both evidently necessary to me, each probably enhancing the other—writing and translating. And this is one of the differences between them: in translation, you are writing, yes, but not only writing—you are also solving, or trying to solve a set problem not of your own creation. The problem can’t be evaded, as it can in your own writing, and it may haunt you later.”
Teachers now discuss problem-based teaching these days quite a bit. Translation, then, might be understood as a form of problem-based writing teaching.